Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Lacto Fermented Turnips Two Ways – Shawarma and Japanese Style

Quick post before work! Rural Southern Ontario can really bite the big one if you have exotic tastes, or cravings. This was no exception. While attending George Brown Chef School, I pretty much lived off of Shawarma . I love the stuff, I cannot get enough of it. When friends of mine visit Toronto from Woodstock they bring me hours old soggy Shawarma, and I couldn’t be happier!
It actually wasen’t till after I moved back from Toronto that I started researching this this heavenly fast food, and I could admittedly never figure out what those weird purple pickled things were! Those purple things were turnips all along! Who would have thought?
Well long story short, I’ve been craving it, thirsting for it, it makes me drool… So like all things time to just make it myself with a twist. Typically most of these pickles are done in a vinegar brine solution, I wanted to try my hand at some lacto fermentation. We are almost a week in and they are starting to taste great.

What you need:

2L worth of Jars, I used a 1500 ml, and a 500 ml jar.
10 Turnips (give or take)
1 Beet
1 piece of Kombu (seaweed used for making Dashi)

The Brine

The ratio I have been using is about 1.5 tablespoons of salt per 2 cups of water.  Simply heat up the water and salt to a boil, once the salt has dissolved, let it cool. You will need about 4 cups worth of brine to do 2L worth of veg. It is also worth noting that the salt will draw extra moisture out from the vegetables so keep an eye on it, or it could overflow and you will have a mess on your hands. 

Shawarma Style

These are pretty easy, and made purple with the addition of a beet. Cut your turnips into finger size batons, put into a jar. I like the addition of about 3 cloves of sliced garlic  as well. Peel your beat and cut similar to the turnips. Fill with cooled brine till turnips are covered, and weigh down with something that will fit inside your jar (I used a smaller mason jar, but glasses, cups, ever a ziplock bag filled with water will work). Loosely cover with cheesecloth and let sit for about a week, after which put in fridge. They should last 3-6 months but will lose their crunch.

Japanese Style

Japanese culture loves pickles; they have stores dedicated to them. In fact, if anyone has a good book on Japanese pickles please send me the title (I am currently going through a Japanese cuisine learning phase). Traditionally these pickles are sliced very very thing, and a small piece of kombu sandwiched between each slice. That is what I would have done had I not left my mandolin at work. So I simply rough chopped them, added about a 4 inch square piece of kombu, filled with brine, and bobs your uncle. Follow as per instructions for the beets.


-          These will not taste exactly like the vinegar pickles you may be accustomed to, if they are not to your liking simply add vinegar to taste. Serve them as a side dish, condiment, frankly I keep just eating them out of the jar and they aren’t even finished yet.
-          If you have some cabbage lying around, break off a leaf, fold it in half, or quarter (depending on size) and shove it on top of the vegetables. This will help keep them submerged and also add some healthy bacteria to the mix (it naturally grows on cabbage leaves)
-          Press firmly, and gently shake your jars to get rid of all air bubbles, as this could cause mold.
-          Last note, this all seems very counter intuitive to what you are used to (leaving veg out for a week), but have a little faith, you won’t get sick…. In fact… you’ll be better for it! Don't over think it, and if in doubt there are many resources on the internet addressing lacto fermentation.